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In Transit Blog: National Parks to Get Grants

Written By wartini cantika on Kamis, 28 Februari 2013 | 17.35

National parks, forests and wildlife refuges are to receive $12.5 million in grants to improve access to them while supporting greener travel, according to Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary. One example is a $1,735,000 grant to expand the Rocky Mountain Greenway, a pedestrian and bicycle trail system that will connect the Denver metropolitan area's trail systems, three national wildlife refuges in the region and Rocky Mountain National Park, above. Another grant will finance new fuel-efficient buses for visitors in Glacier National Park. The grants, announced amid fears of widespread budget cuts to services in national parks due to sequestration, are part of $80 million in funds for transit improvements over the last three years.
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Check In : A Copenhagen Hotel That’s Cool, but Not Warm

Nicky Bonne/Andersen Boutique Hotel

Fireplace in the Andersen's lobby.

Doubles start at 1,125 Danish kroner, or $208 at 5.42 kroner to the dollar, a night (breakfast included).

Basics

This 73-room boutique hotel, which opened in April 2012, features modern design elements, including textiles from the British Designers Guild, specialty light fixtures from the Danish firm Frandsen Lighting and employee uniforms from the Icelandic designer Birna. The independently owned property has also introduced the long-overdue idea of the 24-hour hotel room, called "Concept24," in which guests have a room for 24 hours from the time of arrival, even if that is, say, 6 p.m. (Advance notice is required to take advantage of this perk.)

Location

Two blocks west of Copenhagen's central train station in Vesterbro, an increasingly hip but still slightly seedy neighborhood. There are cool boutiques and craft beer pubs nearby, but among the hotel's closest neighbors are a string of budget hotels and strip clubs.

The Room

My stay last summer coincided with the city's fashion week, and when I arrived in the hotel's fuchsia-hued lobby, a related event was under way — thumping music courtesy of a D.J., and a crowd milling about, sipping Icelandic beers from Champagne flutes. The party made check-in slightly disorienting, but the friendly staff seemed unperturbed.

My second-floor, streetside Superior room was compact, and felt more so because of an excess of furniture: two chairs, a small desk and a glass-topped side table that were all crammed at the base of the bed. There were magenta and navy curtains, three sinuous black pendant lamps, a large flat-screen TV, and one wall stenciled from floor to ceiling with a list of international cities. On the comfortable double bed there were four large decorative throw pillows but only two small ones for sleeping. Upon request, two more pillows were quickly delivered — one of them with a not insignificant stain (which housekeeping failed to replace when making up the room the following day).

Instead of air-conditioning, there were two fans, but their hum did not drown out late-night street noise from patrons of the convenience store across the street and the unsavory characters loitering on the corner below.

The Bathroom

Compared with the modern décor of the room and lobby, the bathroom felt dated, with a utilitarian sink, toilet, shower and plain beige marble tile that could have been imported from any generic stateside motel. (Rooms on upper floors have fully renovated bathrooms with bright paint and white subway tile.) There were toiletries from Molton Brown's Green Park line, but also thin, worn-out towels.

Amenities

Free Wi-Fi is included in the room rate. Also included is a cold breakfast buffet, which was crowded and understaffed during my visit, resulting in empty water pitchers and a shortage of both glasses and spoons. There is no room service, but thirsty guests may avail themselves of another of the hotel's featured amenities: the tap water ("Excellent quality — enjoy!" read a note card).

Bottom Line

The hotel has a cool look and personable service, but great design is in the details, many of which were lacking here. Though Copenhagen is an expensive city, for these rates, one expects more.

Andersen Boutique Hotel, Helgolandsgade 12; (45-33) 31-4344; andersen-hotel.dk. 


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Bites : Mexican Fare With Flair in Kansas City, Mo.

Walk into Port Fonda and your chest will likely rattle from the ear-popping rap music. You may be tempted to dance. But instead of D.J.'s and writhing partyers, you'll find a mix of soccer moms, yuppies and beanie-and-flannel-wearing hipsters at minimalist wooden tables, straining their voices between bites of lengua tacos and tomato-braised octopus and sips of margaritas flavored with blood orange liqueur and hibiscus syrup.

In Kansas City, Mo., a city with an imaginative and evolving culinary scene, Port Fonda has drawn a dedicated following. That's partly because of the inventive Mexican food — unlike anything else around town — but also because of its edgy atmosphere, which reflects the personality of the restaurant's chef and owner, Patrick Ryan, 37, who sports a long orange beard and a collage of tattoos and piercings.

After honing his craft in kitchens in upstate New York and Chicago, he landed in Kansas City (near his hometown, Overland Park, Kan.) about four years ago. In June, he opened Port Fonda.

"I kind of wanted it to be abrasive," Mr. Ryan said. "You really kind of zip down your insides and show people your guts. It's not a place that everybody should love. It's not a place that everybody should even like."

The lure of Port Fonda (once a candidate for the city's name) actually started about a year before he opened the restaurant, when he sold Mexican street cuisine — tacos, tortas, chilaquiles — out of a vintage Airstream trailer. It was an instant success.

The restaurant expands on that menu but offers the same down-home Mexican food tailored to Midwestern palates with Mr. Ryan's flair. In the menudo (a traditional soup), tripe is braised until tender and smooth; other pieces are cut into ribbons and fried. Another popular dish, chilaquiles, is topped with house-made mashed green chorizo and a sauce brightened with Dos Equis beer.

The sopa Port Fonda, inspired by Vietnamese pho, is perhaps the most flavorful creation: pork belly, braised pork shoulder, grilled and roasted vegetables, chochoyotes (masa dumplings) and a fried egg — all soaking in a spicy bacon-chile broth. At the moment, that dish is not on the menu, but Mr. Ryan said it will return on March 4, when the restaurant is to embark on its newest endeavor: lunch. 

Port Fonda, 4141 Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City, Mo.; (816) 216-6462; portfondakc.com. The average price for dinner for two, not including drinks and tip, is about $35.


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Frugal Traveler Blog: In Seoul, Gangnam Frugal Style

Last summer, Korea started singing along to "Gangnam Style," by the K-pop star Psy. By October, my nephews in Maryland had joined the chorus. A couple of months ago in Chongqing, China, I saw women exercising by doing its signature horse-riding dance in a public square. In February, Psy performed before thousands at Brazilian Carnival.

The thoroughly global hit (its video is currently YouTube's most watched video ever, with over 1.3 billion views) has made Gangnam, a 15-square-mile district of southeast Seoul known for packed nightclubs, pricey boutiques and ubiquitous plastic surgery clinics, into a newly magnetic destination.

I normally avoid such spots — a matter of both budget and preference — but during a recent trip to South Korea, I couldn't resist the challenge: Would it be possible to spend three days in a district defined by opulence without hyperextending my budget?

Not only was it possible, it was easier than pretending to ride a horse. And if you take the time to deconstruct the song, you'll realize why: this is an upscale neighborhood where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a tube of lipstick, you can spend an afternoon pretending to be rich. In the video, Psy pokes fun at the poseurs who arrive from more humble neighborhoods. But because they are there, businesses have responded. Yes, there are expensive restaurants and high-end boutiques beyond a normal person's means. But there are also plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, dance and shop for very little. Call it Gangnam Frugal Style.

My visit coincided with the Lunar New Year, which Koreans tend to spend with family; that reduced crowds but left some attractions, like the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum, closed. ("Who cares," said Youngpo Hong, a student and one of my local sources. "I have a kimchi museum in my refrigerator.") But most of Gangnam was still open for business, especially the area around the Gangnam Station subway stop, where a honeycomb of crowded, neon-lit, mostly pedestrian alleys are home to restaurants, bars and clubs — stacked vertically to around five stories. The shopping districts closer to the Han River were also active, as were a handful of cultural attractions, including the Bongeunsa Temple (no admission), a tranquil hillside Buddhist retreat, and the tranquil park housing the Joseon Dynasty tombs (admission, 1,000 won, or about 95 cents at 1,055 won to the dollar).

It would be a reach to call any part of Gangnam "hip" — an invisible anti-hipster perimeter wall keeps anyone not in line with prevailing high-end fashions across the river in Hongdae — but the hottest spot right now is Garosu-gil, a tree-lined shopping street near the Sinsa subway stop packed with cafes and boutiques.

Psy makes multiple references to coffee in the song, and no wonder: the quantity of cafes on and around Garosu-gil is mind-boggling. I decided to start my exploration of the area with a quick survey. Though the coffee is generally good, most customers seem to care little about fair trade or single origins; the point is to see and be seen. The best example of this in Garosu-gil is Coffeesmith, a monstrous, multitiered space barely nicer than a decent Starbucks, but so popular with Seoul's stilettoed, Americano-drinking populace that even with the reduced holiday crowds, it was hard to get a table.

At first glance prices seemed high — 4,000 won for an espresso? But that really is just a liquid license to sit for hours among groups of 20-something women preening, giggling over smartphones and sometimes chatting with young men in stylish, slim-fit jackets and even the occasional tie.

Significantly more intimate and mildly less of a scene, Bloom & Gouté sits one block west from the main drag, a classy combination cafe and flower shop. (Flowers adorn each table, often placed in bottles that, appropriate to the local emphasis on vanity, once held beauty products like Aesop Oil-Free Facial Hydrating Serum.) Lattes are a 7,000-won price of admission; a better deal was to be found at Coco Bruni, a cute spot offering 3,000-won espressos. Here there seemed to be a focus on the actual product: a young barista pulled and tossed at least three shots until he was satisfied with my order.

Shopping options are divided into high-end spots along the main drag offering Korean brands — good for browsing — and small boutiques featuring more offbeat items. A faux-rustic shop called Farmer was full of handmade accessories for women; colorful earmuffs, hats and hair clips, many under 10,000 won, dominated during the freezing Seoul winter. A friend, Eun Young Koh, told me Koreans on a budget often relieve stress by purchasing a small item like a pair of socks — I recommend doing so at a Korean chain called Aland, where I found a 7,900-won blue-and-red-striped pair. (I admit to a brief surge of post-purchase dopamine.)

Here's the bad news for shoppers: Garosu-gil is too adored for its own good, and a global invasion has begun. As of my trip, a four-story outlet of the South California brand Hollister was the latest; inside, I found throngs of 20-something fashion lemmings browsing as a sound system blared the lyrics "Oh it's so cliché …" Exactly.

Solace can be found at one of Gangnam's cheap eating options. Just about every meal I had was under $10. There is a variety of jajangmyeon — Korean-Chinese takeout spots — but also more upscale places, like Sawore Boribap, where bargains can hide in otherwise upscale menus. For example, the boribap, or barley rice, mixed with vegetables and red pepper paste, is just 8,500 won; and a haemul jeon, a delicious seafood pancake more seafood than pancake, is 7,000 won. As in just about all Korean restaurants, under-order rather than over-order: the small side dishes collectively known as banchan, free and refillable, pick up the slack. (At Sawore Boribop, they include extra spicy raw oysters — a major score in my book.)

Near the landmark Kyobo Tower is a restaurant I liked more for its history than its food. Songtan Budae Chigae serves its signature dish for 10,000 won a person. Budae chigae, which means "army base stew," combines stewed kimchi with meat products American soldiers first introduced to the hungry populace during the Korean War: hot dogs and Spam. It may not be gourmet, but it was hearty and satisfying.

Another money-saver came courtesy of my friend Rob Koh, in a variation on the tabletop-grilled marinated beef that most Americans associate with Korean cuisine: Tak galbi, in which chicken is stir-fried with red pepper paste. Right across the street from my hostel near Gangnam Station I found Chum-Chu-Neun Tak-Galbi (Dancing Chicken Galbi), where 9,000 won bought its namesake dish, along with rice cakes, sesame leaf, cabbage, mushroom and a spicy sauce not for the weak.

In "Gangnam Style," Psy celebrates women who can sip coffee by day and let loose at night — and indeed, night life is central to the Gangnam experience. But since it can be expensive, two friends offered solutions. Gangnam-raised Si Yeon Kim took me to Rainbow, a hippie-inspired, Korean-style take-off-your-shoes-and-sit-on-the-floor spot where groups of four share 28,000-won scorpion bowls and hookahs. The ambience was plenty unusual but the prices still a bit steep. Youngpo, a self-proclaimed farm boy, had a better idea, taking me to a few "beer warehouses," newly popular spots that pare the drinking down to its essentials. The warehouses are virtually service-free; at Cube, a spare space with soft neon lighting and a video projected on the wall, there was really just a cashier and someone to bus tables — you take beer (starting at 3,500 won) yourself from refrigerated cases.

My last night called for full-on clubbing, but at the hottest Gangnam clubs — Octagon and Eden, for example — admission can be 30,000 won or more and the scene bruising to egos of those over 30. Both Rob and Youngpo agreed: the solution was Bam-gwa Eu-mak Sa-I ("Between the Night and the Music"), where the weeknight cover is a more reasonable 10,000 won. Located down a flight of stairs in one of the Gangnam Station alleys, its exposed pipes, grungy floors, 2,000-won drafts and infectious '90s K-pop "oldies" drew an unassuming but fun crowd. In other words, just the sort of place where someone exhausted from days of straining toward affluence can let loose — although preferably not to the point of horse dancing.

IF YOU STAY

Few budget lodging options exist in the Gangnam district of Seoul; here are three at various price points.

Morning Guesthouse (third floor, 829-13 Sinseong Building, Yeoksam-Dong). Six blocks (and about 10 cafes) from the Gangnam Station spot, up a couple of flights of stairs, tiny, pod-like guestrooms combine a comfortable bed, a desk with its own Wi-Fi router, and a bathroom-and-shower cubicle in a seemingly impossibly small space. I reserved through booking.com and paid 60,000 won, about $57, for a night.

JA Gangnam (No. 508, Sungwoo Village, 1307 Seocho 4-dong, Seocho-gu). Just a few months old, with only 10 beds and one very hard-working host named Hyunchung Kim ("Dan" in English), this is a charmingly personal little spot, right in the middle of the action — though practically impossible to find without the excellent directions on its Web site. It's also full of the perks you'd expect from hostels: chargers, Wi-Fi, maps, advice, camaraderie. I booked through hostelbookers.com for 28,000 won a night.

A less conventional lodging option, probably best suited to a single night's stay, is Gold Spa (fourth floor, 143 Saimdang-ro, Seocho-gu), a 24-hour jjimjilbang, or Korean bathhouse. Enter in the evening (leave your luggage in a locker at nearby Gangnam Station) and pay the 10,000-won fee. You can spend the night in simple bunk rooms (floor mats and blankets are provided). Divided by gender, men and women lounge in hot and cold pools, steam rooms and saunas and come together on another floor for snacks, socializing and a few additional hot rooms.


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 27, 2013

An earlier version of the map with this article located the Gangnam Station incorrectly. It is to the south of the Kyobo Tower, not to the north.


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T Magazine: Table Talk | Le 6 Paul Bert

Written By wartini cantika on Rabu, 27 Februari 2013 | 17.35

If you think French food has lost its laurels, next trip to Paris, head for the rue Paul Bert. Thanks to the shrewd and very amiable restaurateur Bertrand Auboyneau, this short, quiet street in the 11th Arrondissement offers a full house of addresses that will prove you wrong. The mother ship is Le Bistrot Paul Bert (No. 18), which has become an internationally renowned cult favorite for being the bistro that's been ticking all the boxes on what the whole world thinks a Paris bistro should be ever since it opened some 10 years ago — we're talking a gorgeous flea-market interior, great traditional French grub, a terrific wine list and service with just enough pouty posing attitude to let you know you're in Paris. Then there's the superb Ecailler du Bistrot (No. 22), which tips its hand to show why Paris is the best city in Europe for seafood lovers — it pulls in the best of France's small boat catch daily, and the oysters come directly from the bivalve park of Auboyneau's wife's family in Brittany.

And now baby makes three with the new Le 6 Paul Bert (No. 6, bien sûr), which opened just before Christmas and has become an immediate hit. Some 20 years after the chef Yves Camdeborde introduced the era of "bistronomie," or the modern bistro, in Paris with his restaurant La Regalade, this is Auboyneau's shrewd take on what a bistro should be in the 21st century. The restaurant reflects both his unerring good taste — who else would have thought of sawing the bottoms off of a bunch of antique water carafes to create the puckishly nostalgic light fixtures over the bar? — and an astute reading of what Parisians are hungry for at the beginning of a new century. That is to say, comfort food with a cosmopolitan spin that winks at the cooking of young Turk chefs in other cities, like David Chang in New York and a long-boat full of New Nordic Vikings, while remaining resolutely original.

This place is all about conviviality, with a long table d'hotes, a few seats at the bar, and a much-in-demand table for six in front of the open kitchen where the Montrealer chef Louis-Philippe Riel rises to the challenge of cooking a completely new small-plates menu daily. Think seared scallops with roasted onions and chopped scallion tops in an almost invisible citrus dressing; herring with beets, pickles and sour cream — a dashing little feint at the deli traditions of Montreal and New York; barbecued pork with pickled vegetable slaw on a miniature crepe of mashed carrot — perfect food from the Chang gang. This isn't the kind of food that will interrupt a conversation. Instead, these often modest but impeccably cooked and deeply satisfying little dishes come back to haunt you a week later when you urgently want some more. (N.B.: Book a late reservation here — the kitchen will be under less pressure — and wait it out nearby at the a new wine bar by the chef Bertrand Grébaut of the smash hit bistro Septime.)

Le 6 Paul Bert, 6 rue Paul Bert, 11th Arrondissement; 011-33-1-4379-1432

Septime Cave, 3 rue Basfroi, 11th Arrondissement; no phone, no reservations.


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In Transit Blog: Snowbirds

The Mulhouse Zoo in Alsace, France, was blanketed by a large snowstorm last month that gave some of its 1,200 animals a stunning white backdrop.
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In Transit Blog: Travel Sites Jump Onto the iPad

After work, people who are finally untethered from the desktops they've been using all day creep back online for a second shift using tablets, a trend borne out by usage figures that comScore released in a report this month. And once on their iPads, people buy items at rates higher than they do on smartphones.

Travel booking sites have taken notice. The latest is Orbitz, which recently released an iPad app, above, that is more than a smartphone app that is magnified. It takes advantage of a tablet's larger screen size to display the search bar and various filters you've chosen, the list of search results and maps or photos of the selected items all at the same time. The app comes after similar ones from Kayak and Travelocity.

The iPad, the travel industry has discovered, is more than a tool for catching up on episodes of "Downton Abbey" on the plane.


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Frugal Traveler Blog: In Seoul, Gangnam Frugal Style

Last summer, Korea started singing along to "Gangnam Style," by the K-pop star Psy. By October, my nephews in Maryland had joined the chorus. A couple of months ago in Chongqing, China, I saw women exercising by doing its signature horse-riding dance in a public square. In February, Psy performed before thousands at Brazilian Carnival.

The thoroughly global hit (its video is currently YouTube's most watched video ever, with over 1.3 billion views) has made Gangnam, a 15-square-mile district of southeast Seoul known for packed nightclubs, pricey boutiques and ubiquitous plastic surgery clinics, into a newly magnetic destination.

I normally avoid such spots — a matter of both budget and preference — but during a recent trip to South Korea, I couldn't resist the challenge: Would it be possible to spend three days in a district defined by opulence without hyperextending my budget?

Not only was it possible, it was easier than pretending to ride a horse. And if you take the time to deconstruct the song, you'll realize why: this is an upscale neighborhood where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a tube of lipstick, you can spend an afternoon pretending to be rich. In the video, Psy pokes fun at the poseurs who arrive from more humble neighborhoods. But because they are there, businesses have responded. Yes, there are expensive restaurants and high-end boutiques beyond a normal person's means. But there are also plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, dance and shop for very little. Call it Gangnam Frugal Style.

My visit coincided with the Lunar New Year, which Koreans tend to spend with family; that reduced crowds but left some attractions, like the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum, closed. ("Who cares," said Youngpo Hong, a student and one of my local sources. "I have a kimchi museum in my refrigerator.") But most of Gangnam was still open for business, especially the area around the Gangnam Station subway stop, where a honeycomb of crowded, neon-lit, mostly pedestrian alleys are home to restaurants, bars and clubs — stacked vertically to around five stories. The shopping districts closer to the Han River were also active, as were a handful of cultural attractions, including the Bongeunsa Temple (no admission), a tranquil hillside Buddhist retreat, and the tranquil park housing the Joseon Dynasty tombs (admission, 1,000 won, or about 95 cents at 1,055 won to the dollar).

It would be a reach to call any part of Gangnam "hip" — an invisible anti-hipster perimeter wall keeps anyone not in line with prevailing high-end fashions across the river in Hongdae — but the hottest spot right now is Garosu-gil, a tree-lined shopping street near the Sinsa subway stop packed with cafes and boutiques.

Psy makes multiple references to coffee in the song, and no wonder: the quantity of cafes on and around Garosu-gil is mind-boggling. I decided to start my exploration of the area with a quick survey. Though the coffee is generally good, most customers seem to care little about fair trade or single origins; the point is to see and be seen. The best example of this in Garosu-gil is Coffeesmith, a monstrous, multitiered space barely nicer than a decent Starbucks, but so popular with Seoul's stilettoed, Americano-drinking populace that even with the reduced holiday crowds, it was hard to get a table.

At first glance prices seemed high — 4,000 won for an espresso? But that really is just a liquid license to sit for hours among groups of 20-something women preening, giggling over smartphones and sometimes chatting with young men in stylish, slim-fit jackets and even the occasional tie.

Significantly more intimate and mildly less of a scene, Bloom & Gouté sits one block west from the main drag, a classy combination cafe and flower shop. (Flowers adorn each table, often placed in bottles that, appropriate to the local emphasis on vanity, once held beauty products like Aesop Oil-Free Facial Hydrating Serum.) Lattes are a 7,000-won price of admission; a better deal was to be found at Coco Bruni, a cute spot offering 3,000-won espressos. Here there seemed to be a focus on the actual product: a young barista pulled and tossed at least three shots until he was satisfied with my order.

Shopping options are divided into high-end spots along the main drag offering Korean brands — good for browsing — and small boutiques featuring more offbeat items. A faux-rustic shop called Farmer was full of handmade accessories for women; colorful earmuffs, hats and hair clips, many under 10,000 won, dominated during the freezing Seoul winter. A friend, Eun Young Koh, told me Koreans on a budget often relieve stress by purchasing a small item like a pair of socks — I recommend doing so at a Korean chain called Aland, where I found a 7,900-won blue-and-red-striped pair. (I admit to a brief surge of post-purchase dopamine.)

Here's the bad news for shoppers: Garosu-gil is too adored for its own good, and a global invasion has begun. As of my trip, a four-story outlet of the South California brand Hollister was the latest; inside, I found throngs of 20-something fashion lemmings browsing as a sound system blared the lyrics "Oh it's so cliché …" Exactly.

Solace can be found at one of Gangnam's cheap eating options. Just about every meal I had was under $10. There is a variety of jajangmyeon — Korean-Chinese takeout spots — but also more upscale places, like Sawore Boribap, where bargains can hide in otherwise upscale menus. For example, the boribap, or barley rice, mixed with vegetables and red pepper paste, is just 8,500 won; and a haemul jeon, a delicious seafood pancake more seafood than pancake, is 7,000 won. As in just about all Korean restaurants, under-order rather than over-order: the small side dishes collectively known as banchan, free and refillable, pick up the slack. (At Sawore Boribop, they include extra spicy raw oysters — a major score in my book.)

Near the landmark Kyobo Tower is a restaurant I liked more for its history than its food. Songtan Budae Chigae serves its signature dish for 10,000 won a person. Budae chigae, which means "army base stew," combines stewed kimchi with meat products American soldiers first introduced to the hungry populace during the Korean War: hot dogs and Spam. It may not be gourmet, but it was hearty and satisfying.

Another money-saver came courtesy of my friend Rob Koh, in a variation on the tabletop-grilled marinated beef that most Americans associate with Korean cuisine: Tak galbi, in which chicken is stir-fried with red pepper paste. Right across the street from my hostel near Gangnam Station I found Chum-Chu-Neun Tak-Galbi (Dancing Chicken Galbi), where 9,000 won bought its namesake dish, along with rice cakes, sesame leaf, cabbage, mushroom and a spicy sauce not for the weak.

In "Gangnam Style," Psy celebrates women who can sip coffee by day and let loose at night — and indeed, night life is central to the Gangnam experience. But since it can be expensive, two friends offered solutions. Gangnam-raised Si Yeon Kim took me to Rainbow, a hippie-inspired, Korean-style take-off-your-shoes-and-sit-on-the-floor spot where groups of four share 28,000-won scorpion bowls and hookahs. The ambience was plenty unusual but the prices still a bit steep. Youngpo, a self-proclaimed farm boy, had a better idea, taking me to a few "beer warehouses," newly popular spots that pare the drinking down to its essentials. The warehouses are virtually service-free; at Cube, a spare space with soft neon lighting and a video projected on the wall, there was really just a cashier and someone to bus tables — you take beer (starting at 3,500 won) yourself from refrigerated cases.

My last night called for full-on clubbing, but at the hottest Gangnam clubs — Octagon and Eden, for example — admission can be 30,000 won or more and the scene bruising to egos of those over 30. Both Rob and Youngpo agreed: the solution was Bam-gwa Eu-mak Sa-I ("Between the Night and the Music"), where the weeknight cover is a more reasonable 10,000 won. Located down a flight of stairs in one of the Gangnam Station alleys, its exposed pipes, grungy floors, 2,000-won drafts and infectious '90s K-pop "oldies" drew an unassuming but fun crowd. In other words, just the sort of place where someone exhausted from days of straining toward affluence can let loose — although preferably not to the point of horse dancing.

IF YOU STAY

Few budget lodging options exist in the Gangnam district of Seoul; here are three at various price points.

Morning Guesthouse (third floor, 829-13 Sinseong Building, Yeoksam-Dong). Six blocks (and about 10 cafes) from the Gangnam Station spot, up a couple of flights of stairs, tiny, pod-like guestrooms combine a comfortable bed, a desk with its own Wi-Fi router, and a bathroom-and-shower cubicle in a seemingly impossibly small space. I reserved through booking.com and paid 60,000 won, about $57, for a night.

JA Gangnam (No. 508, Sungwoo Village, 1307 Seocho 4-dong, Seocho-gu). Just a few months old, with only 10 beds and one very hard-working host named Hyunchung Kim ("Dan" in English), this is a charmingly personal little spot, right in the middle of the action — though practically impossible to find without the excellent directions on its Web site. It's also full of the perks you'd expect from hostels: chargers, Wi-Fi, maps, advice, camaraderie. I booked through hostelbookers.com for 28,000 won a night.

A less conventional lodging option, probably best suited to a single night's stay, is Gold Spa (fourth floor, 143 Saimdang-ro, Seocho-gu), a 24-hour jjimjilbang, or Korean bathhouse. Enter in the evening (leave your luggage in a locker at nearby Gangnam Station) and pay the 10,000-won fee. You can spend the night in simple bunk rooms (floor mats and blankets are provided). Divided by gender, men and women lounge in hot and cold pools, steam rooms and saunas and come together on another floor for snacks, socializing and a few additional hot rooms.


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Pursuits: In Northern Germany, a Robust Tea Culture

Written By wartini cantika on Selasa, 26 Februari 2013 | 17.35

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times

A proper service at the East Frisian Tea Museum in Norden. More Photos »

For years, I was a green-tea snob who would drink only the freshest Dragon Well or Azure Conch Spring. Even worse, as a longtime Sinophile living in Beijing I aped Asian cultural practices, and when it came to tea, that meant fanatically seeking out the tender shoots harvested right after the first flush, usually in early April. Everything else was taboo. Black teas, especially, never crossed my tongue.

Then I met Albrecht Ude, a German who had studied Sinology. His apartment in Berlin was an homage to tea, full of manuals on tea plantations, tea import ledgers and rare works on tea botany. I was excited to meet another tea aficionado in Berlin, my adopted hometown since studying there years ago, and went over to visit.

When I first went to see him, he was studying sado, the Japanese tea ceremony, but our drink that afternoon was something else: a thick, dark, malty tea served in espresso-size porcelain cups, a piece of rock sugar in the bottom and heavy cream carefully poured down the side from a flat, shell-like spoon. Stirring was taboo. The cream hit the bottom and mushroomed up, creating a "tea cloud," as Mr. Ude put it.

"East Frisian tea," he said with pride. It was blended by a tea seller in the region where he grew up. "It is special."

I stared at the strange mixture and sipped. It was strong and biting, mostly dark Assam leaves leavened only by a bit of Darjeeling. But as the sugar and cream rushed up from the bottom of the cup, the brew softened. That afternoon, I indefinitely lifted my ban; some black teas were evidently worth drinking.

At the end of my visit, Mr. Ude showed me the source of the tea. The leaves came in a half-kilo package — a simple white bag with a faded blue picture of peasants in the field. Below it was the brand, Hedemann, and an address in East Frisia, a region in northern Germany.

"Go there and drink it," he advised. "You can only truly drink it there." I asked why but he shook his head; it was a question I'd have to answer myself. I followed his advice, and was soon on my way.

East Frisia is best reached by car. It has no major airport and is so sparsely populated that it has infrequent train service. So I drove five hours northwest of Berlin, heading to Hedemann's base in Ostgrossefehn, which could be translated as East Great Fens. That meant flat rural countryside — fens are undrained marshes — popular with tourists who bicycle.

The landscape isn't spectacular but it is scenic. Just like the Netherlands, its neighbor to the west, East Frisia is flat, with dikes protecting green pastures that swoop down below sea level. Holstein cows, windmills and marshy, canal-crossed fields dominate the view. The region bulges out into the North Sea, its coastline dotted with islands for 60 miles. Huge tides empty the shoreline and drain down the creeks and canals, leaving the mud flats, called the Wadden Sea, to worms, crabs, birds and seals. The area's biodiversity has made it one of Unesco's World Heritage sites.

That geography has defined East Frisia, isolating it from the rest of Germany for much of its history. Frisians looked to the Netherlands or England for cultural traditions rather than to their own countrymen. Starting in the 17th century, that culture included importing and drinking tea. Today, according to the German Tea Association, if East Frisia were a country its annual per capita consumption of 300 liters would be the highest in the world, ahead of Kuwait's 290 liters, Ireland's 257 and Turkey's 225.

When coffee took off in Germany and other parts of Europe in the 19th century, East Frisians kept to tea because it was economical; tea leaves can be used over and over again and they do not require grinders and filters. When guests came, East Frisians showed their hospitality by throwing more leaves in the pot and in time a heavy brew became the standard.


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In Transit Blog: Walkabout – 2/25: Looming Budget Cuts Threaten National Parks and Airports

Walkabout

A weekly look at what our writers and editors are reading.

America's Best Idea, Endangered Absent a Congressional compromise to avert budget cuts, the National Park Service will be significantly reduced starting March 1, park retirees warn. (The New York Times)

Forced Cuts, Flight Delays More potential bad news for fliers: Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, is warning that sequestration could lead to significant nationwide air traffic delays due to budget cuts. (CNN)

Power Out On the heels of a fire aboard the Carnival Triumph that left 4,200 people in the dark for five days, a look at the international regulatory roulette that governs cruise ship safety. (The New York Times)

Back on its Feet Two years after it suffered a devastating earthquake, Christchurch, New Zealand, is making a slow but steady tourism comeback. (BBC)

A Homebody Abraham Lincoln tourism is booming, if geographically limited. On why our sixteenth president didn't travel much. (Gadling)


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Update : Not Your Average Hostels

Grupo Habita, the Mexico City-based team behind the upscale Hôtel Americano in New York, is known for taking an unconventional approach to hospitality. Still, its latest property — Downtown Mexico, a hotel within a 17th-century palace in the Centro Histórico district of Mexico City — houses a bit of a surprise: the company's first hostel, Downtown Beds.

Downtown Beds occupies the palace's former service quarters. "The space had the bones for a youthful project," said Carlos Couturier, managing partner at Grupo Habita, which created an upscale hotel at the opposite end of the building. "There was an intimate patio and a rooftop that could be transformed into something cool." The local architecture firm Cherem Serrano kept the original Catalan vaulted ceilings, painted the wooden floors white and installed up to eight bespoke lattice-brick bunks in each room, as well as en-suite bathrooms with rain showers. The patio is now a "chela" garden (that's slang for beer) and the rooftop has a swimming pool and bar that draws a steady stream of locals. There's also a kitchen serving Mexican street snacks, a screening room, table tennis, foosball and free use of bikes.  

"People don't come to Downtown Beds because it's cheap; we have had guests pay with Amex black cards," said Mr. Couturier, whose company also plans to open a hostel in Mazunte, Oaxaca, in two years. "They come because it's fun and different."

Clearly, Downtown Beds is not your traditional hostel, nor could its guests be defined as typical backpackers. There are no chores required, no lockout hours or curfews, and linens and toiletries are provided in each of the 17 rooms, whether private or shared. It is one of the latest examples of a global, industrywide trend focused on accommodating design-conscious 20- and 30-somethings who are seeking out the scene (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for reasons beyond saving a buck.

"We're seeing more and more travelers who can afford to stay at hotels, yet choose to stay at hostels for the social experience," said Aaron Chaffee, director of hostels at Hostelling International USA, who noted that many modern hostels are offering the same amenities as hotels: private rooms, concierge service, Wi-Fi, restaurants and bars. And, of course, stylish interiors.

According to Mr. Chaffee, the trend has its roots in Asia, known for its capsule hotels, and Europe, largely considered the vanguard of hosteling. There is, for example, Matchbox, which opened near Singapore's Chinatown in 2011. It calls itself a "concept hostel." Think breakfast all day (Indian rojak or Malay cookies) and pod-style bunks with panels that open and close, in case you'd like to chat with your neighbor.

Meanwhile, outside Munich, the German Youth Hostel Association has tapped the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, also known as LAVA, an eco-conscious local firm, to transform the circa-1930 Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel. "We were commissioned to rethink what a hostel could be in the age of boutique hotels," said the LAVA director Tobias Wallisser. The first section reopened just over a year ago with natural-wood "cocoon" bunks, energy-efficient wood pellet heating and cantilevered window nooks affording views of the Bavarian Alps, where a resident outfitter arranges mountain biking and ski trips; the next phase, with a bistro and lounge, is set to be completed by 2015, along with LAVA's second hostel, in Bayreuth.

And in Reykjavik, a group of former soccer player and filmmaker friends recently turned a disused biscuit factory — originally scouted by the Icelandic director Oskar Thor Axelsson for his movie "Black's Game" — into Kex Hostel. With a retro barbershop, a gastropub and a music venue-slash-art gallery that stages events from the likes of Sigur Ros (or Russell Crowe and Patti Smith, who recently gave an impromptu performance), it has a cult following among travelers and locals.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the title held by Aaron Chaffee. He is director of hostels at Hostelling International USA, not chief executive.


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36 Hours in Davos, Switzerland

Many equate Davos with the World Economic Forum and the masters of the universe who attend the yearly conference in this Swiss municipality perched 5,120 feet above sea level. But raise your eyes to the mountains and behold the inspiration for the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he wrote about skiing here in the late 1800s), the landscapes of the Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and the setting for Thomas Mann's novel "The Magic Mountain." For nearly 200 years, the crisp Alpine air drew patients to sanitariums that have since been converted to belle époque hotels with brilliant views. With an endless array of activities, from lounging in solariums and saunas to skiing the nearby mountains and visiting museums, travelers to Davos and its environs will find plenty to keep them busy.

FRIDAY

4 p.m.
1. High-Altitude Beer

Marketed as "the last beer stop before heaven," the brewery in the nearby village of Monstein was founded in 2001 in a vacant dairy — one of the younger buildings in the village at just over 100 years old. BierVision Monstein offers unguided tours (free) and beer tasting (3 Swiss francs per glass, about the same in U.S. dollars) every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Because of the altitude, the brewers work with pressurized equipment and a special strain of yeast that is capable of fermentation at over 5,300 feet. The brewery also makes schnapps, whiskey and cheeses. (Monstein brewery, Hauptstrasse 36, Davos Monstein; biervision-monstein.ch)

6 p.m.
2. Capuns, Pizokel, Oh My

For now, skip the fondue and try the lesser-known specialties this region, known as Bündnerland, produces. Those would be capuns, a kind of inverted dumpling made from dried meat, wheat flour, eggs and herbs wrapped in Swiss chard and cooked and served over a cream- or milk-based sauce; and pizokel, a dish somewhere between German spaetzle and a noodle-based hash, usually made from hand-cut buckwheat noodles, potatoes, dried meat, and spinach or chard. Most of the Swiss restaurants in town have these on their menus (15 to 30 francs), though the cafe at Schneider's (Promenade 68; schneiders-davos.ch), Bündnerstübli at the Central Sporthotel (Tobelmuehlestrasse 1; central-davos.ch/en/restaurant_bar.html), and the restaurant at the Hotel Alte Post (Berglistutz 4), are good places to start.

8 p.m.
3. Steamy, Starry Night

After the sun sets, skiers and others in need of pampering opt for a couple of hours of sauna, massage, swimming and general relaxation. One of the best places for this is eau-là-là (Promenade 90; eau-la-la.ch/index.cfm), a complex attached to the Davos Congress Center. Entrance to the pools — including a 25-meter swimming pool, an 80-meter slide, solariums and a heated outdoor pool — is 9 francs. For an additional 17 francs, you'll get access to the wellness area, which includes saunas, hot- and cold-water areas, silent rooms, solariums and outdoor hot-tubs, many with mountain views. Leave your modesty at the door: the wellness area is mixed sex and strictly a "naked zone."

SATURDAY

9 a.m.
4. Two-Horse Open Sleigh

Romantic clichés of the Swiss Alps tend to include the jingling bells, crunching snow and heavy blankets of an open, horse-drawn sleigh — and for good reason. Head out early while the sun still sits low in the horizon, and everything from the sky to the snow-covered buildings and trees take on blue-to-purple pastel hues. Starting from Davos Platz, near the train station, horse-drawn sleigh tours by Kutschenzentrale Davos, with a stop for food at a rustic local restaurant or mulled wine, range from as short as 45 minutes (70 francs for up to four people) to as long as four and a half hours (190 francs for up to four people) for a trip through the beautiful Sertig valley. Don't forget to bring extra layers against the cold.

Noon
5. Artist and Architects

Twenty years ago, the architects Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer built a museum of concrete, glass, steel and wood (12 francs) to house a large collection of works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Today, visitors from around the world stop by the Kirchner Museum Davos (Promenade 82; kirchnermuseum.ch) as much for the building as for the paintings inside. Enjoy the interior space, illuminated by skylights, large windows with sweeping views and geometry of light and color. And then marvel at some of the paintings that kicked off the Expressionist movement — using visual distortions, as opposed to realistic portrayal, to express emotions.

1:30 p.m.
6. Big Ice

Every year since 1923 the Spengler Cup hockey championship has taken place at the Vaillant Arena near the Davos Sports Center, home of the much-loved HC Davos team. If you're lucky, you can catch a regular game. Or head outside to skate (free) or curl on the largest natural ice rink in Europe, covering an area of 193,750 square feet, with great views of the mountains in all directions.

3 p.m.
7. Magic Mountain

Take a ride (8 francs one way) on the "Magic Mountain" funicular (Talstation Oberestrasse; schatzalp.ch/p.cfm?s=12) from near the main promenade street in Davos to the Berghotel Schatzalp, formerly a sanitarium, built in 1898, and mentioned in Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain." It takes only four minutes to ascend nearly 1,000 feet through a fairy-tale forest. As the sun gets lower, the mountaintops take on a golden hue, and a 45-minute walk along the groomed waterfall loop trail, through a 116-acre forest park, is pure peace. Afterward, warm up with coffee (4.50 francs) and cake (6.50 francs) at the cafe, or head to the hotel's red- and purple-illuminated X-Ray Bar, the sanitarium's old X-ray room, for a shot of schnapps (8 francs). There are three ways back to the valley: the funicular, the charming path through the forest, or you can rent a sled (10 francs) from the cafe or nearby kiosk and brave a 1.7-mile-long, groomed sledding trail that is floodlighted until 11 p.m. And yes, Mann wrote about this too.

6 p.m.
8. Fondue With a View

After a long day, there's nothing like fondue, and Davos has a few standout places to try this quintessential Swiss dish. The quirky, tiny Bistro Gentiana (Promenade 53; gentiana.ch) offers traditional cheese and meat fondues, including its signature version (39.50 francs) with mushrooms, dill, cubes of pork, bacon and pearl onions. Or head over to the trendy Pulsa Fonduestube (Talstrasse 3; hotelgrischa.ch) at the Grischa Hotel, where a long picture window perfectly frames the passing red and white Swiss trains. The décor — wood, warm lighting and various antler arrangements — is both modern and rustic. The boletus fondue (33 francs), with mushrooms, is spectacular, with hints of woody umami fungi perfectly balanced with the salty, slightly acid flavors of the cheese.

9 p.m.
9. Après and Après

The nighttime scene starts in the bars, like the divey Tijuana (Talstrasse 15, tijuanabar.ch), where you can test your ability to hammer a nail into a tree stump in one hit, or Chämi Bar (Promenade 83, 41-81-413-55-55), another popular watering hole. But the most crowd-pleasing place is EX Bar (Promenade 63; ex-bar-davos.ch) — all kitsch, from the crystal chandelier to the palm tree to the massive stuffed-animal moose hanging over the entrance. Or do as everyone else does and head to Pöstli Club (Promenade 42; poestliclub.ch) for all the seeing and being seen you can handle.

SUNDAY

11 a.m.
10. Kaffeeklatsch

There's no place to enjoy a good, simple breakfast or brunch, like KaffeeKlatsch (Promenade 72; 41-81-413-30-16). The centrally located two-floor cafe and coffee shop is easy to overlook from the street. Try to snag the corner table upstairs by the window, the one with the sofas. And try the salty, herby breads, or the thinly sliced fried potatoes, somewhere on the latke-hash brown continuum, called rösti (14.90 francs).

1 p.m.
11. Stock Up

Davos is part of the Graubünden, or Grisons, canton of Switzerland, and the people here are proud of the appellation. Bündnerfleisch, for instance, takes its name from the canton, and is a type of pressed, air-dried meat seasoned with white wine and herbs. You'll find bündnerfleisch, deer salsiz or other meat products (5 to 15 francs) at the small Bündnerland Davos shop (Promenade 73; buendnerland-davos.ch). Buy cheeses (around 3 francs and up for 100 grams) at Gourmet Kach (Promenade 74; 41-81-413-0805); truffles and pralines (around 10 francs for a small bag) from Schneider's confectionary; and schnapps like bündner chrüter (36 francs a liter) or röteli (which even has its own schlager song) from the Kindschi distillery shop (Seehornstrasse 13, Davos Dorf; kindschi.ch).

3 p.m.
12. Classic Swiss Village

Jump on any of the local trains headed from Davos to Klosters (second-class fare is free for overnight visitors with a hotel-issued visitor's card) for a spectacular 27-minute ride through pine forests and passes, with gorgeous views of tiny hamlets, homesteads, lakes and mountains. Then take an hour or two to walk around Klosters, where the setting gives off the classic Swiss village vibe — accented by Walser style, vaulted wood-roof buildings with white or wooden facades — that Davos itself mostly lacks.


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The Getaway: Finding Peace During Noisy Trips

Written By wartini cantika on Senin, 25 Februari 2013 | 17.35

IT'S CALLED THE QUIET ZONE. Introduced this month by AirAsia X, a budget airline based in Malaysia, this eight-row oasis offers soft lighting and a promise: no children younger than 12 allowed. The cost of keeping them out? An extra $11 to $36 a ticket.

The notion of segregating children on planes has long inspired debate, even satire. On April Fools' Day, the Canadian airline WestJet joked that it was creating child-free cabins by putting kids in a "special V.I.P." area of the plane. An accompanying video showed children scooting along a luggage belt and being stored in a plane's cargo hold.

But there is a deeper story here, one that underlies the hullabaloo over children's areas. It's about silence, and how different cultures value or don't value it — a nuance that becomes obvious when we travel.

Music blaring from headphones, booming cellphone conversations and garrulous passengers are as much a part of travel today as removing your shoes at the airport. And the din has plenty of people "annoyed, stressed, oppressed," as Mike Goldsmith, the former head of the acoustics group at the National Physical Laboratory in England and author of "Discord: The Story of Noise," put it to me. "The hearing system evolved in part as a warning system, so there is a natural tendency to classify noise as threat," he said. "But, more importantly, noise is an intrusion, a challenge to our rights over our immediate environment."

In the travel milieu, noise has become so commonplace that it's increasingly being managed with rules, like cellphone bans on buses and quiet cars on trains. The new AirAsia X Quiet Zone says it all: pay for silence, or prepare for cacophony.

My own survival strategies involve noise-canceling headphones, nasty looks and sleeping pills (not necessarily in that order). But they make me feel at best antisocial and, at worst, mean. I needed help. So I turned to some people who know a thing or two about silence, from a Buddhist monk to an anthropologist who specializes in public space and culture. Given how easily my thoughts are shattered by noise, I knew I needed to start my quest for quiet with someone who has the discipline of, well, a monk.

And so I began with Andy Puddicombe, who was ordained at a monastery in Tibet and a decade later returned to London to teach meditation to the wider world. Technically that makes him a former monk, but one could argue that it takes more mental stoicism to find peace in London than in the Himalayas. I expected him to suggest that travelers block out unwelcome noise by closing their eyes and breathing deeply. To my surprise and delight, he didn't.

"Denial of what's going on just doesn't work," said Mr. Puddicombe, who discusses the benefits of meditation in his book "Get Some Headspace" and on his Web site, Headspace.com. Attempting to ignore the loudmouth next to you by breathing deeply is what Mr. Puddicombe calls a classic meditation-related mistake — and one that's likely to frustrate you even more as you struggle to focus on your breath instead of the noise. Besides, there's not much you can do about a plane or train buzzing with sounds. What you can change, of course, is how you respond.

"The sound — that in itself isn't the problem," Mr. Puddicombe said. "The problem is the resistance in our mind." In other words, don't sit there fuming about the shouting child and his ineffectual parents. Mr. Puddicombe said your discomfort is not the shouting, it's the gap between reality (the noisy child) and what you want the situation to be (quiet). What Mr. Puddicombe calls "mindfulness meditation" (essentially being in the present moment) can help bridge the space between reality and desire. "It's letting go of what we want it to be," he said, "and moving closer to acceptance of what is happening right now." (Hint: this can also be applied to matters of work, health, love.)

How wonderfully sane. But how to do it?

First, simply acknowledge that you're frustrated (in your head, not by lobbing a shoe). "When you look at resistance it starts to lose its intensity," Mr. Puddicombe said. Then, listen to the sound. Don't blame the noisemakers. Just listen to the sound.

"If you give that your full attention," Mr. Puddicombe said, "eventually the mind will get bored of it." He gave as an example being on an hourlong train ride next to someone with iPod music loud enough for you to hear. Your mind simply won't stay focused on the music for an hour, Mr. Puddicombe said.


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Q&A: Adding Fitness to Your Business Travel Itinerary

Heavy dinners. Endless meetings. Delayed flights. Uncomfortable hotel beds. Business travelers contend with them all, and that takes a toll.

According to a Columbia University study of 13,000 workers two years ago, people who are away from home 20 nights a month had poorer health on a number of measures, including higher rates of obesity, compared with those away for 1 to 6 nights.

Dianne Sykes Scope, an exercise physiologist based in Rockville Centre, N.Y., who, like many of her clients, regularly crisscrosses the country on business trips, has developed tips for combating some of these health hazards. Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with her on how business travelers can stay fit on the road. 

Q. What's your first piece of advice for business travelers?

A. Plan the month ahead, and capitalize on the time you have at home to exercise. Let's say you're traveling twice this month, a total of 18 days out of 30. The days you're home, get in as many of your routine sessions as you can. It's really about burning calories over the month, so if you achieve your goals at home, then you don't have to worry while you're away. If you're gone for more than three or four days, though, you'll want to get in some exercise.

Q. Any recommendations for hotels with good exercise facilities?

A. Sheraton has partnered with the fitness company Core Performance; their gyms stand out for me. Hilton's too. At almost any hotel gym you'll at least find a treadmill or StairMaster where you can do cardio. For strength training, do body-weight exercises like squats, planks or dips off the side of a chair in your hotel room.

Q. Any strategies for navigating those long, boozy dinners with clients?

A. Typically, you can splurge on four to five meals a week — don't go totally crazy, but have that pizza, have that cake — so the month you're traveling, save up your splurge meals. But still pay attention to portion control. You can use your hand to measure any portion: red meat should be no bigger than the size of your fist; chicken, the palm of your hand; carbs, the cup of your hand; and three fingers wrapped around a glass should be your serving of wine. If there's a lot of drinking, then forgo dessert.

Q. What do you pack?

A. For running shoes, I like New Balance Minimus, which has Vibram technology so you feel like you're barefoot, but it looks like a normal sneaker. Very small and packable. New Balance also makes great walking shoes and boots, as does UGG. And use an upright, four-wheeled suitcase, which won't hurt your shoulder.

Q. Any healthy snacks for the road?

A. I stock up on walnuts, fruit and organic jerky — beef, turkey, salmon — at Whole Foods. Protein will keep you energized when you're traveling.

Q. What if your flight's delayed or you have a long layover?

A. Some airports now have exercise rooms — San Francisco's has a yoga room, for example — but if I have a layover, I just turn on my iPod, push my suitcase and get a good 60-minute walk in around the terminal.

Q. Any tips for sleeping?

A. Book your flights at hours that will let you get back into a proper sleeping rhythm. Take a very early morning flight if you're going to the West Coast. When you're heading east, take the red-eye; you might not get the best sleep on the flight, but you'll fall back into a routine more easily. Nutrition and exercise are totally meaningless if you don't get enough sleep.


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Pursuits: In Northern Germany, a Robust Tea Culture

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times

A proper service at the East Frisian Tea Museum in Norden. More Photos »

For years, I was a green-tea snob who would drink only the freshest Dragon Well or Azure Conch Spring. Even worse, as a longtime Sinophile living in Beijing I aped Asian cultural practices, and when it came to tea, that meant fanatically seeking out the tender shoots harvested right after the first flush, usually in early April. Everything else was taboo. Black teas, especially, never crossed my tongue.

Then I met Albrecht Ude, a German who had studied Sinology. His apartment in Berlin was an homage to tea, full of manuals on tea plantations, tea import ledgers and rare works on tea botany. I was excited to meet another tea aficionado in Berlin, my adopted hometown since studying there years ago, and went over to visit.

When I first went to see him, he was studying sado, the Japanese tea ceremony, but our drink that afternoon was something else: a thick, dark, malty tea served in espresso-size porcelain cups, a piece of rock sugar in the bottom and heavy cream carefully poured down the side from a flat, shell-like spoon. Stirring was taboo. The cream hit the bottom and mushroomed up, creating a "tea cloud," as Mr. Ude put it.

"East Frisian tea," he said with pride. It was blended by a tea seller in the region where he grew up. "It is special."

I stared at the strange mixture and sipped. It was strong and biting, mostly dark Assam leaves leavened only by a bit of Darjeeling. But as the sugar and cream rushed up from the bottom of the cup, the brew softened. That afternoon, I indefinitely lifted my ban; some black teas were evidently worth drinking.

At the end of my visit, Mr. Ude showed me the source of the tea. The leaves came in a half-kilo package — a simple white bag with a faded blue picture of peasants in the field. Below it was the brand, Hedemann, and an address in East Frisia, a region in northern Germany.

"Go there and drink it," he advised. "You can only truly drink it there." I asked why but he shook his head; it was a question I'd have to answer myself. I followed his advice, and was soon on my way.

East Frisia is best reached by car. It has no major airport and is so sparsely populated that it has infrequent train service. So I drove five hours northwest of Berlin, heading to Hedemann's base in Ostgrossefehn, which could be translated as East Great Fens. That meant flat rural countryside — fens are undrained marshes — popular with tourists who bicycle.

The landscape isn't spectacular but it is scenic. Just like the Netherlands, its neighbor to the west, East Frisia is flat, with dikes protecting green pastures that swoop down below sea level. Holstein cows, windmills and marshy, canal-crossed fields dominate the view. The region bulges out into the North Sea, its coastline dotted with islands for 60 miles. Huge tides empty the shoreline and drain down the creeks and canals, leaving the mud flats, called the Wadden Sea, to worms, crabs, birds and seals. The area's biodiversity has made it one of Unesco's World Heritage sites.

That geography has defined East Frisia, isolating it from the rest of Germany for much of its history. Frisians looked to the Netherlands or England for cultural traditions rather than to their own countrymen. Starting in the 17th century, that culture included importing and drinking tea. Today, according to the German Tea Association, if East Frisia were a country its annual per capita consumption of 300 liters would be the highest in the world, ahead of Kuwait's 290 liters, Ireland's 257 and Turkey's 225.

When coffee took off in Germany and other parts of Europe in the 19th century, East Frisians kept to tea because it was economical; tea leaves can be used over and over again and they do not require grinders and filters. When guests came, East Frisians showed their hospitality by throwing more leaves in the pot and in time a heavy brew became the standard.


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Update : Not Your Average Hostels

Grupo Habita, the Mexico City-based team behind the upscale Hôtel Americano in New York, is known for taking an unconventional approach to hospitality. Still, its latest property — Downtown Mexico, a hotel within a 17th-century palace in the Centro Histórico district of Mexico City — houses a bit of a surprise: the company's first hostel, Downtown Beds.

Downtown Beds occupies the palace's former service quarters. "The space had the bones for a youthful project," said Carlos Couturier, managing partner at Grupo Habita, which created an upscale hotel at the opposite end of the building. "But there was an intimate patio and a rooftop that could be transformed into something cool." The local architecture firm Cherem Serrano kept the original Catalan vaulted ceilings, painted the wooden floors white and installed up to eight bespoke lattice-brick bunks in each room, as well as en-suite bathrooms with rain showers. The patio is now a "chela" garden (that's slang for beer) and the rooftop has a swimming pool and bar that draws a steady stream of locals. There's also a kitchen serving Mexican street snacks, a screening room, table tennis, foosball and free use of bikes.  

"People don't come to Downtown Beds because it's cheap; we have had guests pay with Amex black cards," said Mr. Couturier, whose company also plans to open a hostel in Mazunte, Oaxaca, in two years. "They come because it's fun and different."

Clearly, Downtown Beds is not your traditional hostel, nor could its guests be defined as typical backpackers. There are no chores required, no lockout hours or curfews, and linens and toiletries are provided in each of the 17 rooms, whether private or shared. It is one of the latest examples of a global, industrywide trend focused on accommodating design-conscious 20- and 30-somethings who are seeking out the scene (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for reasons beyond saving a buck.

"We're seeing more and more travelers who can afford to stay at hotels, yet choose to stay at hostels for the social experience," said Aaron Chaffee, director of hostels at Hostelling International USA, who noted that many modern hostels are offering the same amenities as hotels: private rooms, concierge service, Wi-Fi, restaurants and bars. And, of course, stylish interiors.

According to Mr. Chaffee, the trend has its roots in Asia, known for its capsule hotels, and Europe, largely considered the vanguard of hosteling. There is, for example, Matchbox, which opened near Singapore's Chinatown in 2011. It calls itself a "concept hostel." Think breakfast all day (Indian rojak or Malay cookies) and pod-style bunks with panels that open and close, in case you'd like to chat with your neighbor.

Meanwhile, outside Munich, the German Youth Hostel Association has tapped the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, also known as LAVA, an eco-conscious local firm, to transform the circa-1930 Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel. "We were commissioned to rethink what a hostel could be in the age of boutique hotels," said the LAVA director Tobias Wallisser. The first section reopened just over a year ago with natural-wood "cocoon" bunks, energy-efficient wood pellet heating and cantilevered window nooks affording views of the Bavarian Alps, where a resident outfitter arranges mountain biking and ski trips; the next phase, with a bistro and lounge, is set to be completed by 2015, along with LAVA's second hostel, in Bayreuth.

And in Reykjavik, a group of former soccer player and filmmaker friends recently turned a disused biscuit factory — originally scouted by the Icelandic director Oskar Thor Axelsson for his movie "Black's Game" — into Kex Hostel. With a retro barbershop, a gastropub and a music venue-slash-art gallery that stages events from the likes of Sigur Ros (or Russell Crowe and Patti Smith, who recently gave an impromptu performance), it has a cult following among travelers and locals.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the title held by Aaron Chaffee. He is director of hostels at Hostelling International USA, not chief executive.


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Check In: At an Israeli Hotel, a Hint of New England

Written By wartini cantika on Minggu, 24 Februari 2013 | 17.35

Atlas Hotels

The view of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean from the hotel's rooftop.

Doubles from $230, standard; $270, deluxe; $303, spa room.

Basics

In November 2010, the 51-room Shalom Hotel and Relax opened in a space that had been occupied by a locally owned hourly motel. It is now part of the Atlas chain, which owns boutique hotels throughout Israel — many in Tel Aviv distinguished by their Bauhaus aesthetic.

Location

On Hayarkon Street, a block from a true Mediterranean beach. The hotel is across from a Hilton Hotel and Independence Park and is near many restaurants and shops.

The Room

My sea-view spa room was done up in luminous white with navy blue accents, lending it a modern, New England nautical feel. Beds covered in white sheets had white-and-blue striped padded headboards, set amid walls lined with white-and-blue-striped wallpaper. The best feature was the raised wooden platform with an extra chair and table, and a hot tub, all enclosed in the room, behind floor-to-ceiling windows. It was possible to see the Mediterranean, though the view was slightly obstructed by the Hilton. All rooms have electric kettles; coffee and tea; refrigerators; and a work space with a television monitor/computer combination with free Internet access, along with dozens of cable channels in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and French.

The Bathroom

The large bathroom, which included a shower with a water-can sprinkler head, a toilet and a deep, splash-resistant sink, was glass enclosed, allowing you to gaze across the room to those floor-to-ceiling windows and take in the view. The bathroom itself contained a hairdryer, makeup mirror and Minus 417 brand toiletries, including luxury soaps with loofahs inside, made with Dead Sea minerals.

Amenities

The décor in the lobby, a cozy retreat where it's easy to socialize with other guests, continues the New England theme with cream, red and blue upholstered furniture, as well as Oriental rugs over whitewashed floorboards. The lobby hosts a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday, when it offers Israeli wine, liquors and tapas free to guests (and 60 shekels, or $16.25 at 3.7 shekels to the dollar, for visitors). The hotel's true social hub, though, is the 24-hour rooftop deck, which has stunning sea and skyline views that become even more spectacular at sunset and sunrise. The deck is open all year, and in the summer its bar opens to guests and the public, offering beer, wine and mixed drinks from 40 to 50 shekels to a clientele that often consists of young people in Tel Aviv's tech industry. Despite the inclusion of the word "Relax" in the hotel name, there is no spa. The concierge, however, has a list of masseurs available for in-room appointments. (Expect to pay 280 to 320 shekels an hour.)

Dining

Breakfast is exceedingly generous for a small hotel. Dishes set out include Jewish favorites like bagels, smoked salmon and herring; American cereals; croissants; breads and cakes; Middle Eastern salads, olives, organic honeys and tahini and hummus spreads; cheeses; homemade marmalades; and eggs prepared to order. It wasn't all technically kosher, but followed the "no dairy with meat" restriction.

Bottom Line

The Shalom is relaxing and homey, and its New England-style charm is a welcome change from other high-end Tel Aviv hotels. The proximity to the beach more than makes up for the fact that the Hilton blocks many of its views. The pricing, reasonable for Tel Aviv, doesn't hurt either.

Shalom Hotel and Relax, 216 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv; (972) 3-762-5400; atlas.co.il/shalom-hotel-tel-aviv.


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The Getaway: Finding Peace During Noisy Trips

IT'S CALLED THE QUIET ZONE. Introduced this month by AirAsia X, a budget airline based in Malaysia, this eight-row oasis offers soft lighting and a promise: no children younger than 12 allowed. The cost of keeping them out? An extra $11 to $36 a ticket.

The notion of segregating children on planes has long inspired debate, even satire. On April Fools' Day, the Canadian airline WestJet joked that it was creating child-free cabins by putting kids in a "special V.I.P." area of the plane. An accompanying video showed children scooting along a luggage belt and being stored in a plane's cargo hold.

But there is a deeper story here, one that underlies the hullabaloo over children's areas. It's about silence, and how different cultures value or don't value it — a nuance that becomes obvious when we travel.

Music blaring from headphones, booming cellphone conversations and garrulous passengers are as much a part of travel today as removing your shoes at the airport. And the din has plenty of people "annoyed, stressed, oppressed," as Mike Goldsmith, the former head of the acoustics group at the National Physical Laboratory in England and author of "Discord: The Story of Noise," put it to me. "The hearing system evolved in part as a warning system, so there is a natural tendency to classify noise as threat," he said. "But, more importantly, noise is an intrusion, a challenge to our rights over our immediate environment."

In the travel milieu, noise has become so commonplace that it's increasingly being managed with rules, like cellphone bans on buses and quiet cars on trains. The new AirAsia X Quiet Zone says it all: pay for silence, or prepare for cacophony.

My own survival strategies involve noise-canceling headphones, nasty looks and sleeping pills (not necessarily in that order). But they make me feel at best antisocial and, at worst, mean. I needed help. So I turned to some people who know a thing or two about silence, from a Buddhist monk to an anthropologist who specializes in public space and culture. Given how easily my thoughts are shattered by noise, I knew I needed to start my quest for quiet with someone who has the discipline of, well, a monk.

And so I began with Andy Puddicombe, who was ordained at a monastery in Tibet and a decade later returned to London to teach meditation to the wider world. Technically that makes him a former monk, but one could argue that it takes more mental stoicism to find peace in London than in the Himalayas. I expected him to suggest that travelers block out unwelcome noise by closing their eyes and breathing deeply. To my surprise and delight, he didn't.

"Denial of what's going on just doesn't work," said Mr. Puddicombe, who discusses the benefits of meditation in his book "Get Some Headspace" and on his Web site, Headspace.com. Attempting to ignore the loudmouth next to you by breathing deeply is what Mr. Puddicombe calls a classic meditation-related mistake — and one that's likely to frustrate you even more as you struggle to focus on your breath instead of the noise. Besides, there's not much you can do about a plane or train buzzing with sounds. What you can change, of course, is how you respond.

"The sound — that in itself isn't the problem," Mr. Puddicombe said. "The problem is the resistance in our mind." In other words, don't sit there fuming about the shouting child and his ineffectual parents. Mr. Puddicombe said your discomfort is not the shouting, it's the gap between reality (the noisy child) and what you want the situation to be (quiet). What Mr. Puddicombe calls "mindfulness meditation" (essentially being in the present moment) can help bridge the space between reality and desire. "It's letting go of what we want it to be," he said, "and moving closer to acceptance of what is happening right now." (Hint: this can also be applied to matters of work, health, love.)

How wonderfully sane. But how to do it?

First, simply acknowledge that you're frustrated (in your head, not by lobbing a shoe). "When you look at resistance it starts to lose its intensity," Mr. Puddicombe said. Then, listen to the sound. Don't blame the noisemakers. Just listen to the sound.

"If you give that your full attention," Mr. Puddicombe said, "eventually the mind will get bored of it." He gave as an example being on an hourlong train ride next to someone with iPod music loud enough for you to hear. Your mind simply won't stay focused on the music for an hour, Mr. Puddicombe said.


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Q&A: Adding Fitness to Your Business Travel Itinerary

Heavy dinners. Endless meetings. Delayed flights. Uncomfortable hotel beds. Business travelers contend with them all, and that takes a toll.

According to a Columbia University study of 13,000 workers two years ago, people who are away from home 20 nights a month had poorer health on a number of measures, including higher rates of obesity, compared with those away for 1 to 6 nights.

Dianne Sykes Scope, an exercise physiologist based in Rockville Centre, N.Y., who, like many of her clients, regularly crisscrosses the country on business trips, has developed tips for combating some of these health hazards. Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with her on how business travelers can stay fit on the road. 

Q. What's your first piece of advice for business travelers?

A. Plan the month ahead, and capitalize on the time you have at home to exercise. Let's say you're traveling twice this month, a total of 18 days out of 30. The days you're home, get in as many of your routine sessions as you can. It's really about burning calories over the month, so if you achieve your goals at home, then you don't have to worry while you're away. If you're gone for more than three or four days, though, you'll want to get in some exercise.

Q. Any recommendations for hotels with good exercise facilities?

A. Sheraton has partnered with the fitness company Core Performance; their gyms stand out for me. Hilton's too. At almost any hotel gym you'll at least find a treadmill or StairMaster where you can do cardio. For strength training, do body-weight exercises like squats, planks or dips off the side of a chair in your hotel room.

Q. Any strategies for navigating those long, boozy dinners with clients?

A. Typically, you can splurge on four to five meals a week — don't go totally crazy, but have that pizza, have that cake — so the month you're traveling, save up your splurge meals. But still pay attention to portion control. You can use your hand to measure any portion: red meat should be no bigger than the size of your fist; chicken, the palm of your hand; carbs, the cup of your hand; and three fingers wrapped around a glass should be your serving of wine. If there's a lot of drinking, then forgo dessert.

Q. What do you pack?

A. For running shoes, I like New Balance Minimus, which has Vibram technology so you feel like you're barefoot, but it looks like a normal sneaker. Very small and packable. New Balance also makes great walking shoes and boots, as does UGG. And use an upright, four-wheeled suitcase, which won't hurt your shoulder.

Q. Any healthy snacks for the road?

A. I stock up on walnuts, fruit and organic jerky — beef, turkey, salmon — at Whole Foods. Protein will keep you energized when you're traveling.

Q. What if your flight's delayed or you have a long layover?

A. Some airports now have exercise rooms — San Francisco's has a yoga room, for example — but if I have a layover, I just turn on my iPod, push my suitcase and get a good 60-minute walk in around the terminal.

Q. Any tips for sleeping?

A. Book your flights at hours that will let you get back into a proper sleeping rhythm. Take a very early morning flight if you're going to the West Coast. When you're heading east, take the red-eye; you might not get the best sleep on the flight, but you'll fall back into a routine more easily. Nutrition and exercise are totally meaningless if you don't get enough sleep.


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Pursuits: In Northern Germany, a Robust Tea Culture

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times

A proper service at the East Frisian Tea Museum in Norden. More Photos »

For years, I was a green-tea snob who would drink only the freshest Dragon Well or Azure Conch Spring. Even worse, as a longtime Sinophile living in Beijing I aped Asian cultural practices, and when it came to tea, that meant fanatically seeking out the tender shoots harvested right after the first flush, usually in early April. Everything else was taboo. Black teas, especially, never crossed my tongue.

Then I met Albrecht Ude, a German who had studied Sinology. His apartment in Berlin was an homage to tea, full of manuals on tea plantations, tea import ledgers and rare works on tea botany. I was excited to meet another tea aficionado in Berlin, my adopted hometown since studying there years ago, and went over to visit.

When I first went to see him, he was studying sado, the Japanese tea ceremony, but our drink that afternoon was something else: a thick, dark, malty tea served in espresso-size porcelain cups, a piece of rock sugar in the bottom and heavy cream carefully poured down the side from a flat, shell-like spoon. Stirring was taboo. The cream hit the bottom and mushroomed up, creating a "tea cloud," as Mr. Ude put it.

"East Frisian tea," he said with pride. It was blended by a tea seller in the region where he grew up. "It is special."

I stared at the strange mixture and sipped. It was strong and biting, mostly dark Assam leaves leavened only by a bit of Darjeeling. But as the sugar and cream rushed up from the bottom of the cup, the brew softened. That afternoon, I indefinitely lifted my ban; some black teas were evidently worth drinking.

At the end of my visit, Mr. Ude showed me the source of the tea. The leaves came in a half-kilo package — a simple white bag with a faded blue picture of peasants in the field. Below it was the brand, Hedemann, and an address in East Frisia, a region in northern Germany.

"Go there and drink it," he advised. "You can only truly drink it there." I asked why but he shook his head; it was a question I'd have to answer myself. I followed his advice, and was soon on my way.

East Frisia is best reached by car. It has no major airport and is so sparsely populated that it has infrequent train service. So I drove five hours northwest of Berlin, heading to Hedemann's base in Ostgrossefehn, which could be translated as East Great Fens. That meant flat rural countryside — fens are undrained marshes — popular with tourists who bicycle.

The landscape isn't spectacular but it is scenic. Just like the Netherlands, its neighbor to the west, East Frisia is flat, with dikes protecting green pastures that swoop down below sea level. Holstein cows, windmills and marshy, canal-crossed fields dominate the view. The region bulges out into the North Sea, its coastline dotted with islands for 60 miles. Huge tides empty the shoreline and drain down the creeks and canals, leaving the mud flats, called the Wadden Sea, to worms, crabs, birds and seals. The area's biodiversity has made it one of Unesco's World Heritage sites.

That geography has defined East Frisia, isolating it from the rest of Germany for much of its history. Frisians looked to the Netherlands or England for cultural traditions rather than to their own countrymen. Starting in the 17th century, that culture included importing and drinking tea. Today, according to the German Tea Association, if East Frisia were a country its annual per capita consumption of 300 liters would be the highest in the world, ahead of Kuwait's 290 liters, Ireland's 257 and Turkey's 225.

When coffee took off in Germany and other parts of Europe in the 19th century, East Frisians kept to tea because it was economical; tea leaves can be used over and over again and they do not require grinders and filters. When guests came, East Frisians showed their hospitality by throwing more leaves in the pot and in time a heavy brew became the standard.


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Pursuits: In Northern Germany, a Robust Tea Culture

Written By wartini cantika on Sabtu, 23 Februari 2013 | 17.35

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times

A proper service at the East Frisian Tea Museum in Norden. More Photos »

For years, I was a green-tea snob who would drink only the freshest Dragon Well or Azure Conch Spring. Even worse, as a longtime Sinophile living in Beijing I aped Asian cultural practices, and when it came to tea, that meant fanatically seeking out the tender shoots harvested right after the first flush, usually in early April. Everything else was taboo. Black teas, especially, never crossed my tongue.

Then I met Albrecht Ude, a German who had studied Sinology. His apartment in Berlin was an homage to tea, full of manuals on tea plantations, tea import ledgers and rare works on tea botany. I was excited to meet another tea aficionado in Berlin, my adopted hometown since studying there years ago, and went over to visit.

When I first went to see him, he was studying sado, the Japanese tea ceremony, but our drink that afternoon was something else: a thick, dark, malty tea served in espresso-size porcelain cups, a piece of rock sugar in the bottom and heavy cream carefully poured down the side from a flat, shell-like spoon. Stirring was taboo. The cream hit the bottom and mushroomed up, creating a "tea cloud," as Mr. Ude put it.

"East Frisian tea," he said with pride. It was blended by a tea seller in the region where he grew up. "It is special."

I stared at the strange mixture and sipped. It was strong and biting, mostly dark Assam leaves leavened only by a bit of Darjeeling. But as the sugar and cream rushed up from the bottom of the cup, the brew softened. That afternoon, I indefinitely lifted my ban; some black teas were evidently worth drinking.

At the end of my visit, Mr. Ude showed me the source of the tea. The leaves came in a half-kilo package — a simple white bag with a faded blue picture of peasants in the field. Below it was the brand, Hedemann, and an address in East Frisia, a region in northern Germany.

"Go there and drink it," he advised. "You can only truly drink it there." I asked why but he shook his head; it was a question I'd have to answer myself. I followed his advice, and was soon on my way.

East Frisia is best reached by car. It has no major airport and is so sparsely populated that it has infrequent train service. So I drove five hours northwest of Berlin, heading to Hedemann's base in Ostgrossefehn, which could be translated as East Great Fens. That meant flat rural countryside — fens are undrained marshes — popular with tourists who bicycle.

The landscape isn't spectacular but it is scenic. Just like the Netherlands, its neighbor to the west, East Frisia is flat, with dikes protecting green pastures that swoop down below sea level. Holstein cows, windmills and marshy, canal-crossed fields dominate the view. The region bulges out into the North Sea, its coastline dotted with islands for 60 miles. Huge tides empty the shoreline and drain down the creeks and canals, leaving the mud flats, called the Wadden Sea, to worms, crabs, birds and seals. The area's biodiversity has made it one of Unesco's World Heritage sites.

That geography has defined East Frisia, isolating it from the rest of Germany for much of its history. Frisians looked to the Netherlands or England for cultural traditions rather than to their own countrymen. Starting in the 17th century, that culture included importing and drinking tea. Today, according to the German Tea Association, if East Frisia were a country its annual per capita consumption of 300 liters would be the highest in the world, ahead of Kuwait's 290 liters, Ireland's 257 and Turkey's 225.

When coffee took off in Germany and other parts of Europe in the 19th century, East Frisians kept to tea because it was economical; tea leaves can be used over and over again and they do not require grinders and filters. When guests came, East Frisians showed their hospitality by throwing more leaves in the pot and in time a heavy brew became the standard.


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Update : Not Your Average Hostels

Grupo Habita, the Mexico City-based team behind the upscale Hôtel Americano in New York, is known for taking an unconventional approach to hospitality. Still, its latest property — Downtown Mexico, a hotel within a 17th-century palace in the Centro Histórico district of Mexico City — houses a bit of a surprise: the company's first hostel, Downtown Beds.

Downtown Beds, occupies the palace's former service quarters. "The space had the bones for a youthful project," said Carlos Couturier, managing partner at Grupo Habita, which created an upscale hotel at the opposite end of the building. "But there was an intimate patio and a rooftop that could be transformed into something cool." The local architecture firm Cherem Serrano kept the original Catalan vaulted ceilings, painted the wooden floors white and installed up to eight bespoke lattice-brick bunks in each room, as well as en-suite bathrooms with rain showers. The patio is now a "chela" garden (that's slang for beer) and the rooftop has a swimming pool and bar that draws a steady stream of locals. There's also a kitchen serving Mexican street snacks, a screening room, table tennis, foosball and free use of bikes.  

"People don't come to Downtown Beds because it's cheap; we have had guests pay with Amex black cards," said Mr. Couturier, whose company also plans to open a hostel in Mazunte, Oaxaca, in two years. "They come because it's fun and different."

Clearly, Downtown Beds is not your traditional hostel, nor could its guests be defined as typical backpackers. There are no chores required, no lockout hours or curfews, and linens and toiletries are provided in each of the 17 rooms, whether private or shared. It is one of the latest examples of a global, industrywide trend focused on accommodating design-conscious 20- and 30-somethings who are seeking out the scene (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for reasons beyond saving a buck.

"We're seeing more and more travelers who can afford to stay at hotels, yet choose to stay at hostels for the social experience," said Aaron Chaffee, chief executive of Hostelling International USA, who noted that many modern hostels are offering the same amenities as hotels: private rooms, concierge service, Wi-Fi, restaurants and bars. And, of course, stylish interiors.

According to Mr. Chaffee, the trend has its roots in Asia, known for its capsule hotels, and Europe, largely considered the vanguard of hosteling. There is, for example, Matchbox, which opened near Singapore's Chinatown in 2011. It calls itself a "concept hostel." Think breakfast all day (Indian rojak or Malay cookies) and pod-style bunks with panels that open and close, in case you'd like to chat with your neighbor.

Meanwhile, outside Munich, the German Youth Hostel Association has tapped the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, also known as LAVA, an eco-conscious local firm, to transform the circa-1930 Berchtesgaden Youth Hostel. "We were commissioned to rethink what a hostel could be in the age of boutique hotels," said the LAVA director Tobias Wallisser. The first section reopened just over a year ago with natural-wood "cocoon" bunks, energy-efficient wood pellet heating and cantilevered window nooks affording views of the Bavarian Alps, where a resident outfitter arranges mountain biking and ski trips; the next phase, with a bistro and lounge, is set to be completed by 2015, along with LAVA's second hostel, in Bayreuth.

And in Reykjavik, a group of former soccer player and filmmaker friends recently turned a disused biscuit factory — originally scouted by the Icelandic director Oskar Thor Axelsson for his movie "Black's Game" — into Kex Hostel. With a retro barbershop, a gastropub and a music venue-slash-art gallery that stages events from the likes of Sigur Ros (or Russell Crowe and Patti Smith, who recently gave an impromptu performance), it has a cult following among travelers and locals.


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